tree mosaics on discontinued pattern glass sample tiles
The “Shop Local” and “American Made” movements are drawing new customers to handmade items this holiday season. Many of the people who attended the Opener Art Festival were looking for locally made gifts and especially appreciated the many vendors using up-cycled materials. That was fun to see. It is a wonderful trend, though it may require a bit of reeducation of the shopping public. While they might desire unique handmade items, many are used to big box retailers and used to that price point. Hand-made could evoke both culture shock and sticker shock.
Most artists I know struggle with pricing. You can price according to time and materials but how do you price appropriately for things like creativity and beauty? Some projects require so much time they could elicit a small fortune if you paid yourself by the hour.
An artist I admire recently gave me this advice, “if you love something and don’t mind keeping it then price it accordingly. Get what its worth to you. If you really want to sell it, do your homework and price it to sell.”
a great location. Lots of natural light
Doing my homework includes: knowing the market, the venue, consulting with other artists, friends and gallery/shop owners. I often go to Etsy or Artfire and search similar products. Even with all of this, guessing comes in pretty handy too. It is important to know the real costs you have into your work. Consider things like, insurance, marketing pieces, show fees, commissions, and packaging as well.
While all artists struggle with this, repurposing artists also have to overcome the perception that working with discarded items means you have no costs to consider.
Some people really get the cool factor and are willing to pay for it. They want beautiful handmade wool mittens that were once a sweater. They feel good about a purchase that keeps trash out of the landfill. Other people like the idea but feel that your materials are free – therefore your work should be cheap.
Consider the work it takes to reclaim/salvage “trash” into useable material. I can’t just scoop broken glass up off the floor, hand it to you and call it art or a functional product. If you consider time and supplies needed to convert trash into a usable medium you could have more money into that than any ready-made material.
This year I made 6 beautiful, sparkly, glass ornaments for the Art festival. I love them. They were a lot of work but the result was worth it. I heard a few times that my ornaments were priced too high. I did my homework, considered my costs and landed on a fair price. They were admired by many and bought by no one. I considered keeping them for myself but overall sales were a little slow this year, so I ultimately lowered my price. I sold 3 but still heard “too expensive for an ornament” by a few a customers (as they whispered the name of a big box store where you could get half a dozen ornaments for the price of one of mine).
I could have explained that they can definitely stretch their ornament dollars by going to the big box and buying the same ornaments that everyone else has – mass produced in china and now available in unbreakable shinny plastic (blech). I have no interest in competing with that. That isn’t what I sell.
I sell one-of-a-kind, handmade, glass-on-glass mosaic ornaments made from reclaimed tempered glass pieces. I painstakingly pieced hundreds of glass bits together taking hours and hours for each ornament. The process I use makes the ornament far less breakable than the traditional glass ornament. Each one has a back story. The green ones, for instance, were made from glass I salvaged when my own car window was broken. The real story is the message: what was once broken and thought useless can reemerge as something beautiful. But hey, that’s not what they were looking for. Or was it? I guess I will never know because I didn’t take the time to properly tell the story.
The lesson: If part of what you are selling is the story – tell the story. The tags explained a little but an art fair setting is not conducive to leisurely reading. We talked a little about the materials and process but missed the magic.
I need to rethink my presentation. I wasn’t thinking someone would outfit an entire tree with these orbs. I hoped to sell them alone or in pairs as a special gift. What if I had told them the right story? Perhaps someone on their list has felt broken and is trying to rebuild their life. This ornament would have been a perfect sentiment for that.
Overall, the day was great. I noticed people looking for gifts versus buying for themselves. Let’s hope many people find a special handmade gift under the tree this year.
Update: Before I even had a chance to post this I received an order for 12 of the ornaments from someone who just really loved them!!